Har­monix’s crowd­funded slice of nostal­gia is a fine re­mas­ter


Alit­tle way into Am­pli­tude’s cam­paign there’s a track called Dig­i­tal Paral­y­sis. It’s an apt de­scrip­tion of our con­di­tion af­ter a hubris­tic at­tempt to jump into Har­monix’s re­make on Ad­vanced dif­fi­culty, our ef­fort quickly de­railed by an over­whelm­ing on­slaught of fast-mov­ing beats that leaves us press­ing noth­ing at all. Chas­tened, and with the dif­fi­culty di­alled down a notch, it all starts com­ing back to us on the next at­tempt.

Am­pli­tude’s new form is a slick reimag­in­ing of the beat-match­ing clas­sic that comes across as com­fort­ingly fa­mil­iar rather than dated. You still move your ship (now sev­eral other gen­res (of­ten mashed to­gether in a sin­gle song), and makes for a fre­netic, po­ten­tially di­vi­sive track­list­ing. But for the most part the mu­sic that’s here feels more pur­pose­ful. Beats and bass are pri­ori­tised, and there are no longer any gui­tar-cen­tric tracks that might al­low less punchy rhythm sec­tions to seep in. It all feels bet­ter suited to Am­pli­tude’s sin­gu­lar take on rhythm ac­tion, then, one that still feels fresh 12 years on. Traces of the first game can be found every­where, given fresh con­text by the re­make’s nar­ra­tive and con­tem­po­rary pol­ish. The se­lec­tion of four chunky, dif­fer­ently coloured Nanoblasters con­form to the de­sign prin­ci­ples of the orig­i­nal ship, but their sin­u­ous, metal­lic anatomies now flex with each shot as they blast the notes be­neath them. Most of the powerups are fa­mil­iar, too, al­beit re­named: Slow Down is now called Se­date, for ex­am­ple, while the sec­tion­clear­ing Au­to­blaster has be­come Cleanse. Freestyler, mean­while, has lost its suf­fix and ap­par­ently some of its gen­eros­ity, too – dis­ap­point­ingly, you’re af­forded slightly less time to im­pro­vise over the tracks now.

The orig­i­nal con­trol scheme is in place, too, by de­fault map­ping beats and notes on the right to R2, ones in the cen­tre to R1, and leav­ing L1 for the left side of each part. De­spite the greater travel af­forded by the DualShock 4 pad, this setup still works well and doesn’t lose any of its punch. A mul­ti­tude of al­ter­na­tive con­trol schemes are in­cluded for those that don’t find that in­tu­itive.

Our pre­view build is all but fi­nal, and bar­ring any last-minute calami­ties the game will al­ready have gone out to Kick­starter back­ers by the time you read this. From what we’ve seen, Har­monix has gone fur­ther than sim­ply res­ur­rect­ing a much-ad­mired game and has care­fully re­shaped it to suit mod­ern au­di­ences. It may lack the songs you re­mem­ber, but Am­pli­tude’s remix al­ready feels like the su­pe­rior cut.

Pro­gres­sion ses­sions

Struc­turally, Am­pli­tude is al­most iden­ti­cal to its fore­bear. The cam­paign sees you travel through three re­gions, each of which fea­tures four stages. The last of each of th­ese is es­sen­tially a boss en­counter, in which you must suc­cess­fully streak through bar­ri­ers to pre­serve your health and avoid dam­ag­ing your pa­tient’s brain. If you do par­tic­u­larly well, you’ll open up a bonus song for that re­gion, and there’s a host of ad­di­tional songs to un­lock for the freeplay and mul­ti­player modes. For those rem­i­nisc­ing fur­ther back, there’s also Freq mode, which wraps songs around you, forming into a tun­nel.

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